MILAN: Juventus president Andrea Agnelli, head of the European Club Association (ECA), has responded to reports of a breakaway Super League by backing UEFA’s Champions League reform and saying competitions should remain open to all.
A document produced in support of a breakaway outlines a plan for a 20-team league, outside of UEFA’s control, made up of 15 permanent members and only five who would qualify for the competition annually.
No clubs have publicly supported the plan but multiple media reports have linked Real Madrid president Florentino Perez with the proposal. Real have declined to comment but in October Barcelona’s outgoing president Josep Maria Bartomeu said he had signed the club up to a Super League.
Currently all 32 places in the Champions League have to be won through qualification from domestic leagues — a system that Agnelli has questioned and his ECA had previously argued for automatic places for the biggest clubs.
But speaking at Think Sport 2021, the annual conference event organised by the business intelligence agency News Tank Football, Agnelli said European places should be based on sporting merit.
“Increase the stability and participation, keep access from the domestic level, competitions at the European level should be open to all,” said Agnelli.
“So we as the managers of the industry, we must keep the dream alive, which is one of the mantras of our history, everything should be based on sporting matters, of sporting merit, but that we should remember where the fans of the future are going, so there is a strong view that more European matches are welcome.
“It is not just about England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, but we must embrace also the lower competitions, guarantee an adequate European representation but at the same time offer stability of participation. Stay ahead of new competitors in the changing media environment and respect and nurture the interests of domestic championships,” he added.
UEFA are currently working on their plan for the Champions League from 2024, with a new format and new financial distribution structure.
The discussions have focused on scrapping the round-robin stage, where there are eight groups of four clubs and each team play three opponents at home and away.
UEFA is considering replacing it with a format in which the 32 clubs would play 10 different opponents and qualification would come from one league table.
Agnelli spoke positively about the proposals, noting the new model had been proposed by ECA member Ajax Amsterdam.
“I think it is a great system because it is scalable. The number of games you play in the early stages can be a non pre-determined numbers of games,” he said.
However, the Juve chief was clear that he wants his organisation to have the final say on any changes.
“What I can tell you with certainty is that… I will want any and all reforms to go through the General Assembly of the ECA with all clubs voting for whatever our collective future will be,” he said.
The ECA are likely to meet in March after UEFA’s executive committee decides on the reforms but before the organisation’s full congress.
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